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Secret Atlanta: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure

Unique destinations for Atlanta visitors

secret atlanta book

 

Get to know Atlanta’s secrets in Jonah McDonald’s book published by Reedy Press. Author Jonah McDonald is also a storyteller, historian, and naturalist at Dekalb County Park. He “believes that there is a new story to learn and tell around every bend.” 

 

By Angela Reinhardt

Staff Writer

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     Did you know Atlanta is home to a garden that has the most species of fern in the country? Or that one university campus is home to the “Crypt of Civilization,” a time capsule set to be open in 8133 CE? Or that the corner of Dekalb and Moreland avenues is where artists stood to paint the historic Atlanta Cyclorama, an 1886 painting that depicts the Battle of Atlanta?

     Secret Atlanta: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure explores the lesser-knowns of Georgia’s capital. With Atlanta just an hour away from Pickens County, most residents here know about the city’s most popular attractions and destinations - but naturalist, park ranger, historian, storyteller, and author Jonah McDonald takes readers off that all-too-familiar path into the city’s secret side.

In an easy, fun-to-read format, he weaves together place and story and creates a richer, fuller view of Atlanta, a place residents may not know as well as they thought they did. McDonald describes the collection as “more than a tour guide book” where the story elevates the locations, with those stories ranging from the light-hearted to the more dark and serious. 

     “I want people to enjoy the city and have a sense of humor about things,” he said, “but there are harder stories, too. I didn’t want to shy away from what [Atlanta] didn’t do right,” he said.   

Jonah-McDonald-headshot-1

But, how does someone find out about a city’s secrets when they’re secret?  

In addition to more traditional research methods, “I’d use the question as an ice breaker at parties, or dinner with friends and friends of friends with a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities,” McDonald said. “I’d ask, ‘What do you know about Atlanta that I don’t know?’ By talking about these secret places it connects us,” he said.

The result of his research is a book of around 100 obscure places that range from natural features, to forgotten historical spots, to oddities, to obscure activities, and more. 

Here’s a small sample of what you’ll learn about. Each location includes details about why the place is interesting, where to find it, and pro tips about visiting, including cost (if there is one). 

 

Jones Bridge – The site of a bridge over the Chattahoochee River that “just might have been stolen” in the 1940s during WWII, after the price of metal skyrocketed. 

Doll’s Head Trail – Creepy folk art exhibit at Constitution Lakes Park. What started as a trash pick-up for one man ended up as a quirky installation of doll’s heads, arms, torsos “in the spirit of Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden.” 

Tiny Doors ATL – A public art project that is a collection of tiny doors “hidden in plain sight” around the city and “designed to inspire wonder.” Travelers to Atlanta are encouraged to take photos of the doors when they find them and post on social media with #TinyDoor ATL. 

Millennium Gate Museum – An eight-story classical arch housing a museum of Atlanta history at Atlantic Station. The Millennium Gate opened in 2008, “…built to commemorate all peaceful movements since the birth of Christ.”  

McDonald was approached by Reedy Press to contribute to their Secret city series after he published his popular guidebook Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out, which details over 60 hiking trails within a 30-mile radius from the Gold Dome. His books can be purchased on www.secretatlanta.com, Amazon, or where ever books are sold.  

Learn more about Jonah McDonald at www.jonahmcdonald.com